Part 2—The basket of self-defeat: We would assume that Peter Strzok is a perfectly decent person.
Beyond that, we would assume that he, like everyone else, has imperfections and flaws. Some of these imperfections may reflect characteristic tendencies of his sociological tribe.
As a general matter, we humans don't like to acknowledge our imperfections. That's especially true of those imperfections which may be especially embarrassing.
So it was that Agent Strzok offered a silly explanation last week for a couple of things he once said:
GOODLATTE (7/12/18): Let's discuss a text that hits home for me. On August 26, 2016, you texted Ms. Page, quote, "Just went to a Southern Virginia Walmart. I could SMELL the Trump support." And "smell" is in capital letters, all capital letters. What does Trump support smell like, Mr. Strzok?When he said his neighbors were "ignorant hillbillies," that was part of the "healthy competition" which exists between those two neighboring counties!
STRZOK: Sir, that's a expression of speech. I clearly wasn't smelling one thing or the other...What I meant by that was, living in Northern Virginia, having traveled 100, 150 miles south within the same state, I was struck by the extraordinary difference in the expression of political opinion and belief amongst the community there from where I live.
GOODLATTE: And you describe that as "smell," in capital letters?
STRZOK: Sir, that was a choice—the quick choice of words in a text.
GOODLATTE: Well, OK. So earlier, you had texted Ms. Page that another part of Virginia—Loudoun County, which is, I think, in Northern Virginia—is quote, "still ignorant hillbillies," end quote.
Is that what you meant? That you consider Trump supporters to be ignorant hillbillies?
STRZOK: No, sir. Not at all.
GOODLATTE: What did you mean by that?
STRZOK: Well, sir, the first thing I'd tell you as a—as a proud Fairfax County resident, there's a healthy, sort of, competition between Fairfax and Loudoun [Counties]. Second thing I would tell you is that in no way did I or do I believe any resident of Loudoun County, or Southern Virginia or anywhere else in the nation, is—are any of those things. That was a flippant text.
As we showed you yesterday, Strzok was challenged at other points in his day-long water-boarding about these "flippant text[s]." As we showed you, he stuck to his overall story about those unfortunate statements.
According to Strzok, he hadn't actually meant what he said in those texts. It was like the way people in Wisconsin might speak about Minnesotans!
Surely, no one believes that explanation for those unfortunate texts. During last Thursday's hearing, it was obvious that Republican congressmen weren't buying this explanation.
Later, conservative pundits urged tribal members to see Strzok's explanation as disingenuous, dishonest—as swampishly too cute by half. That' s what conservatives said about Strzok's explanation.
Presumably, though, no one in our liberal tribe will fail to know that Strzok was being a bit disingenuous—was failing to cop to a fairly obvious state of affairs.
To what was Agent Strzok failing to cop? He was failing to acknowledge an obvious fact—his comments reflect a widespread, long-standing disdain within the liberal world for the subhumans found Over There.
The liberal world crawls with this tribal disdain. Indeed, our world has crawled with this tribal disdain for a very long time.
At present, comment threads at liberal sites crawl with familiar variants of this tribal disdain. Beyond that, Strzok's claim that he could SMELL the Trump voters at the Walmart in southern Virginia echo an iconic statement famously made long ago:
KAEL (12/28/72): I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.That was film critic Pauline Kael, as quoted in her own New York Times, from a speech she gave on the date we've cited. Where Strzok could smell the Trump voters in southern Virginia, Kael was somehow able to feel their forebears in a darkened room.
Expressions like these are unlovely. Around the world, through the course of time, they're tied to horrible relatives in gruesome family trees.
Almost surely, this explains why Strzok was slow to acknowledge a fairly obvious fact. This is the way we liberals routinely speak, and think, about Those People, the cucarachas found Over There.
As a matter of theory, we all know better than to generalize about people in these unflattering ways. Indeed, when we say we can smell or feel Those People, we're moving rather directly toward the realm of dehumanization—a realm we all know we should avoid, at least as a matter of theory.
That said, the liberal world has run on the fuel of this tribal disdain for a rather long time. In the past few years, the rise of Trump has heightened this instinct, which occasionally gets expressed in ways which live in infamy and can be highly self-destructive:
CLINTON (9/9/16): I know there are only 60 days left to make our case—and don't get complacent. Don't see the latest outrageous, offensive, inappropriate comment and think, "Well, he's done this time."Oof! Complaining about Trump's "offensive comments," Clinton uncorked one herself! Complaining about "mean-spirited rhetoric," she took a trip down the same road.
We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
They're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic—Islamophobic—you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people—now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric.
Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully, they are not America. But the "other" basket—the other basket—and I know, because I look at this crowd, I see friends from all over America here: I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas and—as well as, you know, New York and California—but that "other" basket of people are people who feel the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures; and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but—he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.
You can see that Clinton knew better than to make such sweeping statements. You can see that in the very first thing she said:
"You know, to just be grossly generalistic..."
You can see that she knew better. But then, she went there anyway, scoring a brutal own goal.
Jut like that, she was expressing the deepest kind of disdain for exactly half of Trump's voters. "Unfortunately," these people exist, she amazingly said. She somehow knew that half Those People were "irredeemable," not fit for life on this earth.
By now, she was light years over her skis, heading down the slope of defeat. Given the way it was put to use, it isn't clear that this one statement didn't decide the campaign.
Today, the liberal world is wondering what we can do about Commander Trump, who's crazily moving us toward the onset of His Future Dispositive War. Occasionally, an obvious fact swims into view, even for people as clueless as we are:
This whole problem turns on the fact that we haven't been able to persuade enough of the voters who were insulted by Clinton and Strzok. For whatever reason, we haven't been able to persuade Those People that they made a bad choice with Herr Trump.
Comments like Strzok's make conversion harder. Decades of comments like that help explain where we are today.
Secretly, Agent Strzok understood that his remarks came from a dark place. It's hard to apologize for such arrogance and such disdain. That's why he dissembled, making matters worse.
These are snapshots of a highly fallible tribe. They help explain how we got to this ludicrous place.
Tomorrow: Dropping dick jokes on their heads
Thursday: Last Sunday's Sunday Review